Sometimes you need to chuck conventional wisdom aside and just figure out what works. Like many other people, I've been "donating" at the gym for years. I'm not one of those people who hates to exercise. I actually like it a lot, once I finally stop making excuses and lace up my sneakers. But my gym membership was breeding stress, guilt and the downward spiral that comes with them.
Once exercise becomes "a thing", the excuses breed like cockroaches. If I'm going to drive fifteen minutes to and from the gym, I feel like I need to stay at least an hour, which means I need to carve ninety minutes out of my crazy schedule. I don't like to go if I haven't showered, but showering before working out seems crazy. So instead of offending the person next to me on the treadmill with my "I have two young kids and haven't showered in 36 hours" funk, I just skip the workout. My optimum time to exercise is right after I drop the kids off at school, but that's when the gym is jam packed with other Moms who all have the same idea. If I wait until later in the day when the gym is less crowded, it's too easy to get side tracked with errands. Sometimes the stars align and I'm ready to go to the gym, but I don't like the class offered that morning. Or my iPod isn't charged. I forgot to put my contact lenses in. I feel like a stuffed sausage in my workout clothes. The dog ate my homework.
Excuses, excuses, excuses.
Thankfully a friend of mine finally talked some sense into me. She said "Don't try to carve ninety minutes out of your day. Just walk ten minutes in one direction. Then turn around and come home. Done." This idea sounded like heresy. Just walk? For only twenty minutes? What about the strength training? The yoga? The cross training? All of the things that have been drummed into our heads about exercise? But the truth was I spent a lot of time thinking about going to the gym, and not a lot of time actually AT the gym. Twenty minutes of actual exercise trumps zero minutes in the gym every time.
So I decided to give it a try. I forgot about the gym. I blocked out the $40 per month I was paying. Instead, I committed to myself that on the days I didn't work, I would exercise IMMEDIATELY after dropping the kids off at school. It didn't matter if I did a video at my house or went for a walk outside, I would do it at 9:00 every Tuesday and Thursday. Both the "too crowded" and showering excuses were cured - it was only me and my dog at my house and frankly he smells worse. I can't complain about the class offerings because I control the DVD player. If my iPod isn't charged, I can plug it in. I can't feel self conscious because there are no mirrors in my living room.
A funny thing happened. Once I found a routine and a way to quiet my usual excuses, I wanted to exercise more. I started bringing sneakers to work so I could fit in a quick walk one or two days each week. After a few weeks I dropped four pounds. Without the gym. Without the blaring music and overly cheerful instructor. Without the guilt.
Then I finally did the unthinkable. I wrote a certified letter and officially quit the gym.